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New multi-disciplinary fermentation research centre launched

22 Jan 2024
Prof. John Morrissey (left) with a team of researchers from SUSFERM, the new UCC Centre for Sustainable Fermentation and Bioprocessing Systems for Food and the Bioeconomy, which was launched on 22 January at a special conference in the Aula Maxima. Photo: Clare Keogh
  • UCC hosts meeting of bioeconomy experts and stakeholders from industry, academia, and government bodies.
  • Colloquium sees launch of new multi-disciplinary fermentation research centre.

A University College Cork (UCC) colloquium today, hosting experts and stakeholders from industry, academia, and government bodies from the bioeconomy sector, will also see the official launch of SUSFERM, a ground-breaking multi-disciplinary fermentation research centre.

The colloquium entitled "Opportunities in the Irish Food and Bioeconomy Sectors for Precision Fermentation and Microbial Biomanufacturing," features speakers from Clonbio, Siemens, Enterprise Ireland, the Carbery Group, Teagasc, SOS Ventures and more, discussing the potential of Precision Fermentation and Microbial Biomanufacturing to shape the future of the Irish food and bioeconomy sectors.

Microbial fermentation uses microorganisms, such as bacteria, yeast, or fungi, to convert sugars or other organic compounds into valuable products that can be used in the food and industrial sectors. The best-known examples would be the production of foods like yoghurt, cheese and fermented beverages, but these fermentations are also widely used to produce enzymes, food ingredients, organic acids, and sustainable biochemicals.

Precision Fermentation and Microbial Biomanufacturing, relatively new concepts in biotechnology, involve the design and engineering of microbes to produce specifically tailored products through fermentation and then the transfer of these to industrial scale through biomanufacturing. When this is coupled to the selection of sustainable feedstocks, and optimisation and scale up in a biorefinery, it is possible to achieve eco-friendly, economically viable, and sustainable commercial operations.

SUSFERM, the Centre for Sustainable Fermentation and Bioprocessing Systems for Food and the Bioeconomy, includes a research infrastructure funded by Science Foundation Ireland that provides industrial and academic researchers access to state-of-the-art fermentation technology. This will enable them to unlock the power of microbial diversity and microbial fermentation to develop new products and processes that are more sustainable than those currently used in the food and industrial biotechnology sectors.

Speaking at the colloquium, Professor John O'Halloran, President of UCC said these innovative approaches align with UCC's commitment to sustainability, a core value outlined in the university's five-year strategic plan, in particular promoting excellence in research that has impact on our planet and people in securing our future.

"Sustainability is at the heart of these new approaches, seeking to use microbes to develop bio-based alternatives to fossil-derived chemicals, and fostering the creation of sustainable food systems. I wish to congratulate SUSFERMS Co-Directors, Professor John Morrissey, Professor Maria de Sousa Gallagher, and Professor Seamus O'Mahony on this significant milestone.”

Prof de Sousa Gallagher, Professor of Process and Chemical Engineering at UCC said:

“Precision Fermentation and Microbial Biomanufacturing are at the heart of the bioeconomy, and responding to industry demand, SUSFERM is also developing new post-graduate and professional programmes to provide graduates with the interdisciplinary skills that are required to design, develop and optimise commercial operations.”

Prof. Morrissey, Professor of Microbiology at UCC, said;

 “SUSFERM will enable researchers and SMEs gain access to personnel and facilities that will boost and accelerate the development of innovative solutions for the Irish and global bioeconomy.”

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